MEET THE BOSS: Flip Phone boss Conor Copas, a catalyst in used smartphone market

Flip Phone founder Conor Copas has become a force to reckon with in the thriving South African e-commerce market. Having played a key role in championing the success of leading e-commerce brands such as Groupon and Hyperli, it's only a matter of time before Flip Phone becomes a market leader for used and refurbished smartphones. He takes us through his insightfful entrepreneurial journey.

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FACT FILE

  • Conor Copas was born in a South Africa in 1991 to Irish Parents
  • He began his career in e-commerce with Groupon and then moved onto to become the founding member of Hyperli 
  • Copas started Flip Phone in 2018 while he wrapped up with Hyperli and started working for organic online store Faithful-to-nature 
  • He made the jump to grow it on a full time basis at the end of May 2020. 
  • The dedicated Capetonian originally wanted to build a platform that catered to selling vehicles hassle free and safely, but was put off by the exorbitant input costs and capital it generally comes with.  
  • Instead he made the decision to re-capture the secondhand phone market which remained a grey area when it came to being secure, transparent and ethical.

Meet The Boss: The Journey So Far!

FLIP PHONE allows customers to sell their phone in a very easy and trusted manner via its website.

Priding itself as a customer-centric company focused on creating seamless, and uniquely personalised experiences, Flip Phone refurbishes the devices and lists them on their online store at best possible prices.

The Cape Town-based entrepreneur lets us in on the inspiration behind the company, and his plans to turn it into a secondhand phone megastore.

Q: Your resume in ecommerce is quite impressive. How did it all start?

A: I stumbled into the industry after varsity. It all started with Groupon South Africa in 2014 and from there my interests in online business flourished.

The e-commerce landscape in SA is somewhat unique compared to the rest of Africa and the world; we see internet penetration rising through the ease of cellphones and access to WiFi more readily available.

One small positive that came from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown was the spike in online shopping and the adoption of users who otherwise would not be looking online but towards brick and mortar.

E-commerce opens the doors to a whole range of opportunities from product discovery to convenience shopping to a constant presence around the clock.

Q: From Groupon to Hyperli, Faithful to Nature, every company you have worked for has gone on to become greatly successful. How do you view success and what drives you?

A: It’s all about the customer. It’s one thing to create a service that fills a gap in the market, but seeing Flip Phone in use and the reviews from customers is the biggest driver. We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback to date from new and returning customers.

In a time where lack of trust, uncertainty and time wasting detracts from selling your preloved phone, we’ve taken all the hassle out of the equation and made it seamless to declutter that old tech drawer.

Q: What gap is there in the market that Flip Phone hopes to fill?

A: The rate at which the cell phone manufacturers are releasing new models compared to a few years back, coupled with the weakening Rand / USD exchange has been a big factor.

There’s been a huge movement towards customers trying to recoup the cost on the older models or simply trading in their upgrade and making use of the previous model for an extended period of time.

When it comes to selling your phone today, there are tons of trust issues with 3rd party websites or social media platforms. In SA especially, consumers look for transparent, trustworthy and hassle free experiences and Flip Phone is the answer to all 3.

Since launching, we’ve seen the feedback point directly to this gap being filled and we’re happy to be filing it.

Q: You started Flip Phone in 2018, how has the market responded to the concept?

A: We launched with a MVP in September 2018 which served as the solid foundation for the site you see today. We saw great adoption of the service from day one, with customer reviews pointing straight to the seamless customer experience we set out to achieve.

We slightly underestimated the demand in the first week but this was quickly addressed through a few enhancements!

Q: What exactly makes you different from the many mushrooming tech startups?

A: To avoid sounding like Jeff Bezos, we put the customer first when building out Flip Phone to be completely customer centric. From the customers first touch, we’ve taken all the grunt work out. We do exactly as we say with no exceptions and truly live the Flip Phone mission statement.

Q: African tech startups are still starved of early stage funding in spite of their business potential. How did you navigate this as a (sole) owner of the company which success appears highly dependent on funding availability?

A: Flip Phone is in the fortunate position where it is self funded. Securing funding for a first time business with no proven track record is like winning the lottery.

The downside of taking funding at an early stage often results in the company looking to reward and impress investors and not necessarily the customers.

Being self funded, we’ve stuck to boxing smart, practising lean startup principles and it has served us well so far. Post COVID, we’ve got some exciting expansion plans which could see us revisiting the funding conversation.

Flip Phone founder Conor Copas

Q: How has Flip Phone responded to COVID-19 in general?

A: With COVID-19 impacting every facet of daily life and business, we’ve had to adapt. We’ve been closely monitoring the pandemic and are committed to doing our bit to flatten the curve, by implementing strict protocols and services when it comes to selling your device with us.

Together with our courier partners, all collections are safe and contact-free from the customers door to ours, across the entire country.

Our staff follow strict measures in line with the recommendations issued by the WHO and are following the guidelines under the current lockdown stage, set out by the national authority. 

Q: Given your extensive background in this line of work, who are the current and future movers and shakers in the e-commerce industry? 

A: South Africa is slightly behind the times and this opens doors to observe the overseas players paving the way. From this we can see on demand platforms/services are proving to be a key player in the online space.

Quick turnaround times coupled with efficient logistic partners are vital. We see free and same day delivery being more prevalent and this option results in an increased online adoption curve.

Q: Who are some of your greatest mentors and what are their roles in your life?

A: From working at Groupon, Hyperli and Click2Sure under both Wayne Gosling and Dan Guasco as well as Simon Bowes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have great mentors who offer valuable insight and guidance at times when needed!

Q: Where do you see Flip Phone in 5 years?

A: We are constantly improving our offering and taking into account what the customer wants. We will be widening our focus in the coming months to accept more brands, models and devices.

In the long term, we look to position ourselves as the number one tech recycling platform and to be a daily habit in the mind of the consumer whether looking to buy or sell tech!

*For the latest profiling of South Africa’s movers and shakers (Meet The Boss) across various industries, make sure to visit NOWinSA daily

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